US Supreme Court: January 2010 Archives

US Supreme Court issues two opinions

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In Briscoe v. Virginia, the Court accepted certiorari on issues concerning the Confrontation Clause and expert testimony.  After hearing oral argument, the Court summarily vacated the judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia and remanded the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts

In Hemi Group v. City of New York, the Court addresses a civil RICO action and finds that because the City of New York cannot show that it lost tax revenue "by reason of" an alleged RICO violation (based on failure to provide customer information for internet cigarette purchases), it cannot state a RICO claim.  The plaintiff must show a direct relationship, "but for" causation and proximate causation.

The Court granted certiori in two cases, that were consolidated for oral argument: Abbott v. United States and Gould v. United States.  They present the question of (1) whether the term "any other provision of law" of 18 USC 924(c) includes the underlying drug trafficking offense or crime of violence; and (2) if not, whether it includes another offense for possessing the same firearm in the same transaction.  Scotusblog provides the opinion below, petition for cert. and the response.

Via Scotusblog, the US Supreme Court issued several opinions this week:

Wood v. Allen - Interpretation of 28 USC 2254(d)(2) and its requirement that federal habeas relief not be granted, in relevant part, unless the state court's decision was based "on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."  The issue of whether the state court unreasonably applied Strickland is not addressed. 

South Carolina v. North Carolina - original action concerning apportionment of river water, the opinion addresses the standard for a nonstate entity's intervention in an original action.

Kucana v. Holder - judicial review of discretionary immigration decisions by the Attorney General is prohibited only for determinations made discretionary by statute, not by regulation. 

Presley v. Georgia - per curiam, 7-2 - In addition to a First Amendment right of access to jury selection, there is also a Sixth Amendment right to public proceedings for the accused.  Before closing the courtroom, trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accomodate public attendance at criminal trials.

Wellons v. Hall - per curiam, 5-4 - The Court decides the defendant was entitled to discovery.  It pretty much speaks for itself:

"From beginning to end, judicial proceedings conducted for the purpose of deciding whether a defendant shall be put to death must be conducted with dignity and respect. The disturbing facts of this case raise serious questions concerning the conduct of the trial, and this petition raises a serious question about whether the Court of Appeals carefully reviewed those facts before addressing petitioner's constitutional claims. We know that the Court of Appeals committed the same procedural error that we corrected in Cone v. Bell, 556 U. S. ___, ___ (2009) (slip op., at 17-18). We do not know how the court would have ruled if it had the benefit of our decision in that case.

Petitioner Marcus Wellons was convicted in Georgia state court of rape and murder and sentenced to death. Although the trial looked typical, there were unusual events going on behind the scenes. Only after the trial did defense counsel learn that there had been unreported ex parte contacts between the jury and the judge, that jurorsand a bailiff had planned a reunion, and that "either during or immediately following the penalty phase, some jury members gave the trial judge chocolate shaped as male genitalia and the bailiff chocolate shaped as female breasts," 554 F. 3d 923, 930 (CA11 2009). The judge had not reported any of this to the defense."



In Smith v. Spisak, the US Supreme Court reverses an order of the 6th Circuit granting habeas relief to a death row inmate.  The Court finds that a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court was not clearly contrary to the Supreme Court's decisions in Mills v. Maryland, which concerned jury unanimity for mitigating circumstances.

US Supreme Court changes some rules

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Via Scotusblog

The Supreme Court released revisions in its Rules, effective on Feb. 16.  The Court will no longer consider any request to extend the deadline for filing amicus briefs at the merits stage. It also shortened the word limit on reply briefs on the merits from 7,500 to 6,000.  A press release announcing the revisions is here.  The order implementing the changes, and the text of the revisions themselves, are at this link.


The US Supreme Court issued a per curiam decision this morning in McDaniel v. Brown.  The Court concluded that the 9th Circuit misapplied Jackson v. Virginia in finding insufficient evidence to support the conviction based upon evidence presented after the conviction. 

Brown acknowledged the 9th Circuit's erroneous analysis and asked that the case be remanded for analysis under the correct standard and for consideration of unresolved issues.  The State asked for a reversal without remand.  The Court finds that the due process issue, concerning erroneous expert testimony on DNA, was not preserved but remands the case for consideration of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Via Scotusblog, the US Supreme COurt granted cert. today in Dolan v. United States.  The case presents the issue of whether a district court decision to enter a restitution order beyond the 90-day time limit prescribed by 18 USC 3664(d)(5) must be vacated.

Next week at the US Supreme Court

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via Scotusblog:

Mon., Jan. 11:

Alabama v. North Carolina (132 Original) -- interstate dispute over enforcement of regional pact on disposal of radioactive wastes; responses to Special Master's report

Briscoe v. Virginia (07-11191) -- scope of crime lab analysts' role in a criminal trial; sequel to Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, on Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause rights

Tue., Jan. 12:

U.S. v. Comstock (08-1224) -- constitutionality of prolonged imprisonment of sex offenders after sentences completed

Abbott v. Abbott (08-645) -- parents' rights under Hague Convention on child custody

Wed., Jan. 13:

American Needle v. National Football League (08-661) -- antitrust liability of pro sports leagues for joint commercial activity

Jerman v. Carlisle (08-1200) -- legal error as an excuse for violation of debt collection law

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the US Supreme Court category from January 2010.

US Supreme Court: December 2009 is the previous archive.

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